Please bear with me, excuse the pun. Here are some thoughts and observations about this great state and its friendly people.
I got invited to a village whale harvest dinner in June by a member of a local tribe. She said her village gets 5 strikes to harpoon a whale or more. They make food from the whale, harvest the skin and oil, and use the blubber for various native traditions.
Lots of smokers up here, must go along with the long, cold winter nights, or just boredom. Mental illness and drug use also big issues.
The staff of my two tours have been mostly outstanding. They even know how to set every camera for the Aurora photos. They are safe drivers, and really know their Alaskan history, and wilderness facts.
The ice on the Yukon River is only about a meter thick. But it held a dozen of us in the area of a swimming pool.
We flew far north to Coldfoot, not much more than a cafe, small post office, dog mushing operation, and last truck stop for fuel for over 260 miles. So, forget your hot rods or electric vehicles, we were off the grid completely. But the food in the cafe was quite good, esp. the clam chowder. This location is about 130 miles into the Arctic Circle.
We headed south on the famous Dalton Highway, which tends to parallel the Alaskan pipeline to the Arctic Circle.
The days are getting longer by 7 minutes each day!
I felt really sorry for the mushing dogs. They live outside, where the temps go well below zero. And at about 15 degrees yesterday, it was already too warm for sledding. Surprisingly, the dogs are not very big, but have long legs. They seemed to crave human interaction.
Thank goodness the Masters is on TV.
I plan to go to a salmon bake tonight. I learned the five types of salmon. They actually feed the sled dogs a stew of salmon and rice, exactly what I have for dinner about weekly.
By far, the Chinese tourists make up the majority of winter tourists.
At the Yukon River, we had a nice dinner of Chinese noodles with BBQ pork.
Did I say we finally got the E ticket ride on the Aurora last evening around 230am? Simply nature’s greatest light show, and well worth the time and expense to get here.
Met three nice young people from Portland, all from India. They seemed to enjoy my stories of traveling the universe. They have some photos of me that I will soon forward to you.
Food is expensive here, but surprisingly good, certainly better than Siberia.
Many towns and villages can only be reached by air, as the permafrost does not allow ground travel.
The truckers rule the road. They drive fast, carrying full loads of fuel back up north, then head back empty to Fairbanks. And a CB radio is a must!!
No cars on the road, mostly pipeline workers, truckers, and the occasional tour van or bus. One tour van was propped off the road in a small ravine, I do not want to know.
The pipeline is simply a great engineering feat, very high tech, and well planned. Another boom is on the horizon up in the Arctic region, I hear.
Don’t come up here if you value your nice facial complexion. It is both cold and dry, not good for the skin.
Many of you have been here, bush pilot Terry Hillblom, and Sandy, as well as tourists like Carolyn and Bill Barnes. I heard old classmate, Bob Fletcher lives here.
Rather sexist, but there are way too many men here, a real shortage of young women.
Other than the two moose I saw outside of Anchorage, I have only seen bird life and their two legged predator, man. I also saw some hawks a few days ago.
Most cars have an electrical plug hanging out of the front of the hood, to keep the battery warm during colder weather. Cars and vans use unstudded snow tires around here.
There are a surprising number of African Americans living and working here.
I heard during June and July, the mosquito is the state bird. They are also the main predator of baby moose.
Several active gold mines here, including both traditional, and open pit mining.
The aurora season is August 21 to April 21. There are 70 straight days of sunshine from mid May to July 31.
Gold was discovered by Italian immigrant, Felix Pedro, no relation to former SF Giants 3rd baseman, Pedro Feliz.
When the sun comes out in winter, it is simply gloriously gorgeous.
Ice hockey is a big deal here, needless to say.
I miss good Mexican food. Seafood is more expensive here than back home. Crazy!
Too cold for any homeless here, at least in winter.
Did you know a reindeer is just a domesticated caribou?
We also saw Dall sheep, moose, a bald eagle, trumpeter swans, and a few birds on the long train ride. But I saw Denali from about 5 different places on the rail route. Spectacular!!!
But my luck runeth out. The curse of Sarah Palin struck me down in her home town of Wasilla, about an hour from Anchorage. The front of two engines derailed on our train just outside of Wasilla. We waited two hours before they detached the derailed engine. Then they had to inspect the tracks behind us, before pushing us back to Wasilla. They bussed us to Anchorage and dropped me off at the airport just before midnight. I then shuttled to my hotel, fell asleep at 1230am, and woke up at 430am for today’s flight. Everyone was cursing the “maverick” former governor of Alaska!!!
See you in the Lower 48!